Let’s talk about the return of the Pebble People…a sugar daddy for Rouge Football?…good reads in the Drab Slab…going goal-for-goal with Gretzky…skating and Slurpees…Cam Newton in the closet…the GAOAT debate…and good golly, I just love Dolly…

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and an NHL rink turned to slush on Saturday, so here’s another meltdown…

Chelsea Carey

True confession time: I actually got emotional when the ladies slid from the hacks at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts on Friday night in Calgary.

I know, what’s up with that, right?

I mean, I knew I missed curling, because Pebble People long ago became my favorite athletes, and listening to Vic and Cheryl and Russ and Cathy and Bryan prattle on in their folksy manner is true comfort TV for moi.

But misty-eyed? What a silly sap.

Except maybe it isn’t so silly.

After all, the scourge of COVID-19 has been a dreadful life-changer for the multitudes and the killer virus shows scant signs of unconditional surrender, so any hint of normalcy is as welcome as canned goods at a food bank. And, for me, turning into a couch potato to watch curling on TSN at the back end of winter is as close to normal as Chelsea Carey drawing the four-foot with her last rock.

So, ya, a wave of emotion hit me.

Now, if the Canadian Football League ever gets its act together and returns to the fray, I’ll be a blubbering idiot.

Commish Randy

Speaking of Rouge Football, commissioner Randy Ambrosie insists that the large lads will definitely be grabbing grass this year. “We are full-throttle on our plans for a full season,” he informed news snoops last week. Sounds great. But I have four words for Commish Randy: Show us the money. A source tells Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press that the CFL took a $60-$80 million bath in red ink when it went into cold storage in 2020, and we all know there’s no way three-downs football kicks off without butts on the benches this year. Which leads me to wonder if there’s a sugar daddy out there that the commish isn’t telling us about. Have Trudeau the Younger and the feds found some spare change to get the CFL off skid row? If Commish Randy has found the funding, tell us. Otherwise, jabbering about a full season is just a mouthful of Pollyanna.

So here’s a question: Now that shinny scribes are covering National Hockey League skirmishes and the Scotties from basement hideouts, will newspapers revert to old ways once this pandemic thing is in the rear-view mirror? That is, will they once again spend great gobs of cashola to have their beat writers flit hither and yon across the tundra, while also bunking them down in fancy-shmancy lodgings, or will they chintz out and keep them close to home and hearth? My guess is editors will make a strong push to get the boys and girls on the beat back on the road, but I’m also thinking that newspaper bean counters might have something to say about it. And they’re strictly bottom-line people.

Jeff Hamilton

Some real nice reads in the Drab Slab on Saturday: Jeff Hamilton gave us the low-down on media-friendly Paul Stastny of the Winnipeg Jets, while Taylor Allen hopped into the way-back machine to tell us all about Dr. Tom Casey, former Winnipeg Blue Bombers great. And they did it all from home. Hopefully, the bean counters didn’t notice.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Winnipeg Sun. Friday’s sports section totaled 2½ pages. That’s embarrassing. Paul Friesen, Ted Wyman and Scott Billeck continue to fight the good fight, but Postmedia expects them to win the Indy 500 on a skateboard. It’s a bloody shame. I’d say shut the damn thing down and start all over again, but I don’t want to see three more good people out of work. There’s been enough carnage in jock journalism.

Wayne Gretzky

Got a great guffaw out of some revisionist history served up by Mad Mike McIntyre in the Drab Slab last week. After the Jets had outlasted the Edmonton Oilers, 6-5, he wrote: “It was shades of the old Smythe Division days, back when the likes of Hawerchuk, Steen and Carlyle regularly went toe-to-toe, and goal-for-goal, with the likes of Gretzky, Kurri and Coffey.” Excuse me? Goal-for-goal? Well, let’s see about that:

      Playoff Series         Goals
1983: Edmonton 3-0      14-9
1984: Edmonton 3-0      18-7
1985: Edmonton 4-0      22-11
1987: Edmonton 4-0      17-9
1988: Edmonton 4-1      25-17
1990: Edmonton 4-3      24-22

Totals:      22-4    120-75

Ya, losing 22 of 26 games is going goal-for-goal like the back of a garbage truck is a salad bar.

The NHL’s ballyhooed outdoor extravaganza in Lake Tahoe went kaflooey on Saturday, when the sun turned the ice surface into a giant 7-Eleven slurpee and put the Colorado Avalanche-Vegas Golden Knights skirmish on pause for more than eight hours. No word on whether or not the delay resulted in added costs for the NHL, but they can just take it out of the slush fund.

Turns out Mike Babcock isn’t finished with hockey, and hockey isn’t finish with him. The former NHL and Olympic coach is heading back to his old stomping grounds in Saskatoon, where he’ll take command of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. How fitting that an old-school coach would return to his old school.

The Perseverance rover touched down on Mars last week, and it took 11 minutes for the radio signal from the Red Planet to travel to NASA headquarters and confirm the landing. Or about the same amount of time it takes Bryson DeChambeau to choose a golf club.

Cam Newton

File this one under Pandemic Problems of the Filthy Rich: NFL quarterback Cam Newton tells us he has spent “maybe millions” of dollars on garments he’s worn just once. “So to be able to recycle the closet, so to speak, is something that’s challenging,” he says. “But at the same time, it’s going to be fun to do so throughout this whole year. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to not buy high fashion. I want to be more a thrift-store shopper. I want to be more of a vintage shopper. I want to be more of a person that finds gems in stores that are less expensive, and to still be able to give it its fine look, but I’m still myself.” Yo! Cam! You’ve made more than $120 million in the NFL. Stay the hell out of the thrift shops and leave the hand-me-down clothing to those of us who live on government pensions.

I don’t care how many Grand Slam tennis titles Novak Djokovic collects by the time he’s done, it’s really hard to root for the Serb, who rag-dolled Daniil Medvedev in three sets to win the Australian Open early this morning and now has 18 Slams, two fewer than Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. The Joker might be a good guy, but if he has any charm he hides it well. Much like the dour Ivan Lendl.

Serena Williams

So Serena Williams failed in another bid to secure her 24th Grand Slam singles title, yet her march to the semifinals Down Under was enough to raise a fresh volley of “greatest athlete of all-time” bafflegab from her legion of loyalists.

They insist that Williams is superior to all who have ever tossed, caught, swatted, bounced or slam dunked a ball, run a race, jumped a fence, sacked a quarterback, thrown a left hook, performed a quad, dazzled on a balance beam, plunged into a swimming pool, etc. It’s a claim they make because…well, just because.

Alexis Ohanian

The Serena-ites offer no viable evidence to support their platform, except to direct our attention to Williams’ Grand Slam tally: 23 singles titles, 39 including doubles play. Oh, wait. There’s one more thing: Serena’s hubby, Alexis Ohanian, wears a t-shirt that says she is the GAOAT and, as well all know, t-shirts are the stone tablets of the 21st century. As if.

At any rate, they use those Grand Slam figures to bolster their bravado and, at the same time, reject the reality that Williams’ singles total remains a sliver shy of Margaret Court’s 24 and her overall count isn’t in the same area code as Court’s 64 or Martina Navratilova’s 59. They choose to ignore those numbers because, like a Donald Trump apologist with “alternative facts,” they don’t fit their false narrative.

Williams falls short, or is matched, in all categories, but numbers cannot be the sole measuring stick in determining an athlete’s loft. If it were, we’d hail Kathy Whitworth as history’s greatest golfer, since she has more tour wins (88) than Tiger Woods. Mickey Wright has as many as Woods and Sam Snead (82). But we don’t go there because it’s as absurd as saying a McDonald’s drive-thru is five-star dining.

So exactly what do the Serena-ites use as a barometer for their squawk that Williams is the GAOAT? Is she the fastest ever? No. The strongest? No. The smartest? No. The most durable. No. The most versatile? No. The quickest? No. Is she the finest aggregate of all the above? No.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Still, they tell us Williams is unmatched. Better than Bo Jackson, an all-star in Major League Baseball and a Pro Bowler in the National Football League. Better than Deion Sanders, who played in both the Super Bowl and World Series. Better than Jackie Joyner-Kersee, holder of the four highest scores in heptathlon history and whose world record has stood unassailed since 1988. Better than Babe Didrikson-Zaharias, a multi-sport phenom who specialized in track and field, golf, hoops and once toured with baseball’s bearded House of David. Better than…well, every damn body who’s ever strapped on a jock or a sports bra.

That’s their belief, and I suppose some of them also believe Trump really won the election.

If the Serena-ites want to tell me Williams is the finest female tennis player of all time, I’ll listen, but not before advancing an argument for Navratilova and Steffi Graf. Williams didn’t have to deal with Chrissie Evert 80 times like Navratilova, and she never won a calendar Grand Slam and an Olympic gold medal in the same year (1988) like Graf.

Serena is great, but let’s keep it real.

Babe Didrikson-Zaharias

Stumbled upon this gem about the aforementioned Babe Didrikson-Zaharias, the subject of much scorn and ridicule for her unladylike manner while conquering the worlds of track and field and women’s golf: “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring,” wrote Joe Williams of New York World-Telegram. Good grief. The great Grantland Rice was much kinder, writing: She is beyond all belief until you see her perform. Then you finally understand that your are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination, the world of sport has ever seen.” Babe, by the way, won the U.S. Open a month after cancer surgery and six other tournaments while suffering from terminal cancer. The disease was diagnosed in 1953 and she was dead three years later.

Final tally in friendlies between teenage boys from the United States Premier Hockey League and the Professional Women’s Players Hockey Association all-stars: USPHL 8 wins, PWHPA 3.

Dolly Parton

And, finally, lawmakers in Tennessee want to erect a statue of Dolly Parton, but the country crooner/actor/philanthropist graciously declined, suggesting the timing isn’t right. Please tell me you all love Dolly Parton as much as I do.